Tuesday, August 15, 2017

REVIEW: 'Animal Kingdom' - The War Between Baz and Smurf Hits a Major Turning Point in 'The Leopard'

TNT's Animal Kingdom - Episode 2.11 "The Leopard"

Baz puts his plan to take down Smurf in motion. Marco cashes in a favor with Craig and Deran. Pope seeks the truth behind the reasons for Catherine's death.

"The Leopard" builds to a very devastating conclusion in the war between Baz and Smurf. Baz has put his plan into motion and has gotten Smurf arrested. He laid the trap perfectly for her. She knew that it was coming as well. She knew that the world was crumbling around her. Baz was making significant moves against her. And now, he has succeeded in getting his vengeance against her. She took him in all those years ago. But he is now realizing that he has always been broken and he will only be fixed by escaping the people who have hurt him over the years. He gives people the opportunity to do the right thing. He approaches Smurf with the offer to keep her family and freedom just as long as she signs over some of her businesses to him. He has all the power in this situation. He has the leverage and the knowledge of everything Smurf has done against her family. She may have a rational explanation for everything she did. It seems wise to sit on jewelry for awhile so that it will be easier to fence. But both of them are only digging their heels in further. They can't trust anything the other has to say. As such, it's not surprising at all to see the show build to this very destructive final moment. It's a decision that the characters will never be able to come back from. This will change the family unit forever.

So, it should be very interesting to see what the complications of this decision will be moving forward. Baz believes he has thought everything through with this grand plan. He has only truly let Lucy in on what his motivations really are. He has the money to leave this life behind if he wanted to. He could finally step up and be the father that Lena deserves. However, both Baz and Smurf have involved J in this war. They both believe that they can control him. They see how smart and capable he is in this game. He already knows that he needs to keep a secret stash of money for himself should anything go awry. He doesn't need to be taught that lesson by Smurf. Baz may be foolish to believe he can truly control J in this ongoing conflict. J is still naive and green in a lot of ways. He still wants to be loyal to both sides of this war. He informs Baz that Smurf knows it was him who stole from her. But he's his own individual as well. He's only revealing his true self to Nicky. He's getting close to her once more. That's a relationship that could become complicated in this war. He's promised her that Smurf will allow her to stay in the house. He has bought a vehicle to have independence from the rest of the family. He's an important part of this war.

And yet, J is capable of handling himself. He can adapt to the changing situation. No, he's not expecting Smurf to get arrested right now. He has no idea just how far this war has already gone in such a quick amount of time. Smurf is literally having him become her power of attorney. That means he gets control of her businesses should anything happen to her. He's aware that she's worried and paranoid. He understands what that means. But this story becomes even more devastating when the show focuses on Lena. The show has had to spend more time on her this season because Smurf and Baz are in charge of her well-being. Last season, she could easily be forgotten because Catherine was always looking after her. But now, Catherine is gone and never coming back. There is a child in this family that needs to be with a guardian at all times. The show has to tell the audience who is looking after her. And now, she is picking up on the tension within the family. She worries that her father is planning on leaving just like her mother did. She's afraid. She believes she needs to be quiet in order to go with him. But even when Baz is reassuring to her that everything is fine, she still shows her love and affection for Smurf. This war is going to do a ton of damage to Lena. She's already been traumatized enough. Baz wants to escape the world that is constantly destroying him. But he's not even realizing that he's doing that exact same thing to do his daughter. He's not abusive to her in the same way his father was to him. But the psychological damage will be just as extensive.

Things finally come to a head in Pope and Amy's romance as well. That dynamic has always been doomed to end tragically. He was never his genuine self with her. He wanted to be. He wanted to live a happy life as Andrew. Amy's love for him proved that he was still capable of love after every horrible thing he did. She wanted him in her life. She was willing and open to have him experience everything about her complicated story. He was there for her during difficult times. And yet, he was also the reason behind some of that stress. He was still loyal to his family when the time came to do the church heist. He's still lying to Amy about the life he currently lives with his brothers. He has had no talk about wanting out of this life. Instead, he's just full of personal anguish. He's falling apart over the guilt of Catherine's murder. He killed her under Smurf's orders because he believed she posed a threat to the family. When he gets confirmation here that that wasn't the case, he spirals. He can't trust Smurf because she's the one who manipulated him into doing that heinous act. He needs to confide in someone. But that means needing to be completely honest with Amy. He wants to do that. He opens himself up to her. He shares the grim details about killing a woman he loved. In the moment though, it's too much monstrosity for Amy to handle. This isn't the man she fell in love with. She knew about his troubled past. But she had no idea how far down the darkness was. She wasn't expecting this from him. And so, their dynamic ends in a brutal display of emotion. Again, it was inevitable but it's still so devastating to watch because the show has really invested in the two of them as a couple this season.

"The Leopard" is an episode of big, climatic moments. And yet, it does feel a little scattered when it pertains to the Craig-Deran portion of the world. They are just so isolated from everything else. Deran has proved himself as a fantastic character this season in his decision to make it as a legitimate businessman. He wants to escape from this life for good. Meanwhile, Craig has just once again confirmed that he will always be exactly the same. The yacht heist just happened last week. And now, Craig has already blown through all of the money. He spent it in a wild weekend in Las Vegas with his ex-girlfriend, Ren. Plus, he can't even remember it. It's a haze to him. The more this happens the more sad it gets. Craig keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. It's not as cute or fun as it once was. Deran has really soured on it as well. The two of them have always been a solid pair amongst the brothers. They support each other no matter what. But Deran is on an upward trajectory in life while Craig is staying put and wondering why the world is changing around him. That's very dangerous too. They made a deal to do a job with Marco. Time has come for that. But instead of simply smuggling something across the border, it's actually a kidnapping where the victim is very unlikely to survive the handoff at the end of the day. It tears the two of them up because they still have some moral code. Deran doesn't want to be associated with murder of any kind. He keeps being pulled into these situations and he's about had it. But in the end, they still do the job. At least until Lucy shows up and criticizes Marco for what he has done. It's a weird ending. One that suggests that Lucy as a criminal will be more important in the season's end game.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Leopard" was written by Eliza Clark and directed by Michael Morris.
  • It was important that Smurf set up surveillance at Baz's house. She needed to know what he was planning. But that operation didn't provide as much information as she was hoping for. Instead, it basically just confirms that J was in on the job but not an active participant. That's still important for her to know. But she still trusts him more than anyone else.
  • The threat from Detective Patrick is still just lurking around the hinges of the narrative. Smurf's arrest will more than likely have an impact on his investigation into Catherine's murder and attempt to take down the whole Cody family. But Pope approaching him and confronting him could be a very dangerous decision as well.
  • At times, the show puts in the effort to say that J and Nicky are still in high school. They only have erratic attendance because the family is always pulling them into various situations. But here, Nicky goes to school for a big science test while J just goes out and buys a car. He really doesn't need school anymore. His future is already mapped out for him. 
  • Did the show really need to emphasize that J is always angry? The quiet and repressed emotions are the way he has always come across. Nicky wants to know how he handles the fact that Smurf and his uncles were living this kind of life while he was in poverty for so many years. It's a good question. Just a little unnecessary in the context of this episode.
  • Craig is also indebted to Ren once more. The last time that happened he needed Smurf to bail him out. And now, she's been arrested and won't be able to do so again. So, will he be able to come up with the cash himself? Or will he once again find himself tortured and needing to call a family member to deliver their own personal money?